September 27, 2019

VIFF 2019 | 'The Lighthouse' Descends into Madness

"You sound like a goddamn parody."
VIFF 2019The Witch filmmaker Robert Eggers' sophomore effort stars the grizzled duo of Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson as eccentric lighthouse keepers in nineteenth-century Maine who very quickly descend into madness stranded in isolation. The Lighthouse is your basic single-location two-hander where its protagonists battle each other psychologically in a nightmarish, pitch-black horror piece of maniacal solitude.

Shot on 35mm film in black-and-white and the ultra-boxy 1.19:1 aspect ratio, the rather deranged feature purposely evokes early pre-sound cinema contrasted with top-notch contemporary sound design to further accentuate the story's sense of unhinged madness. Eggers' impressive technical approach to the period material provides great storytelling contrast.

Written by Robert and his brother Max Eggers, things go off the rails quickly as Dafoe and Pattinson spar and escalate their series of conflicts and bonding to over-the-top lengths interspersed with various jarring forms of psychosexual imagery featuring mermaids and octopuses.

Everything about The Lighthouse and how it unfolds is supremely f*cked up with its most basic of premises. Eggers delights in torturing his feverish characters and letting them loose. It's an unrelenting dramatic interplay of nautical madness with some truly ridiculous slapstick comedy including frequent use of flatulence and masturbation injected to an almost state of parody.

The Lighthouse screens at the 2019 Vancouver International Film Festival as part of the Panorama stream at The Centre in Vancouver for Performing Arts.

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